A Jewish Coloradan hopes to beat Boebert in November
Adam Frisch is betting that a common-sense governing style will resonant with Colorado voters 'fed up' with the incumbent's theatrics and extremism
Following a recent string of deadly mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y., Adam Frisch, a Democratic primary candidate in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, is drawing a sharp contrast on gun control in his campaign to unseat Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) this November.
“Fewer guns make sense,” Frisch, 54, said matter-of-factly in an interview with Jewish Insider. “I fully support the Second Amendment, but the Second Amendment as the vast majority of people see it as, which is that the Second Amendment doesn’t guarantee an assault rifle for a 6-year-old.”
Meanwhile, the gun-toting freshman incumbent, who once pledged to carry her Glock to Congress and owns a restaurant called Shooters Grill where servers are encouraged to carry firearms, has aggressively dismissed calls to regulate guns. “You cannot legislate away evil,” Boebert said shortly after the shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde last month, while arguing that the U.S. “didn’t ban planes” after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Speaking at a Christian event in Colorado Springs a week ago, the congresswoman also drew headlines when she wondered “how many AR-15s” Jesus “would have had,” before answering her own question. “Well,” she said, “he didn’t have enough to keep his government from killing him.”
Unlike Boebert, Frisch said he does not own any guns himself. “I’ve shot with them. I like them. I’ve been hunting with friends,” he told JI. “For me, it’s like marijuana. I’m not a user, but I’m fully supportive of people having them. Let’s make sure people can hunt as freely as they wish, let’s make sure they can do their target practices and recreational gun firing, and let’s make sure people have the ability to carry the pistol on their belt.”
“That’s not the issue,” Frisch said. “It is just this extremism that’s causing issues.”
The gulf between Frisch and Boebert on guns is as wide as the district itself, whose boundaries take in most of the state’s Western Slope. And the bet that Frisch is making in his longshot bid to take down Boebert is that his common-sense platform and moderate stance on a range of issues will resonate with voters who are fed up with her theatrics, incendiary rhetoric and support for conspiracy theories.
“There’s obviously a lot of pent-up frustration that we have,” Frisch said. “She’s not even representing the people who voted her into office. It’s all about waving a gun and not doing anything else.”
The far-right lawmaker had already cemented a reputation for controversy by the time she took office last year after a surprise upset over an entrenched Republican incumbent.
Among other provocations, Boebert had, perhaps most notably, expressed support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, which imagines a secret network of Satanist pedophiles who control the political levers. While Boebert has insisted that she is not a follower of the movement, the congresswoman has continued to amplify some of its claims throughout her first term.
Boebert, 35, has also drawn scrutiny for likening vaccination efforts to Nazism, promoting the “great replacement” theory and suggesting that a Muslim lawmaker, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), is a terrorist. In an uncomfortable encounter last January, Boebert raised eyebrows when she questioned whether Jewish visitors at the Capitol were conducting “reconnaissance,” remarks one observer described as “totally inappropriate.”
Frisch, for his part, says he is fed up with such behavior, and claims that a growing number of voters feel the same. “There are a lot of people who are concerned about Boebert’s extremism,” he told JI. “They’re concerned about her links to QAnon and her links to Marjorie Taylor Greene.”
While in the House, Boebert has formed a close alliance with Greene, the first-term congresswoman from northwest Georgia who has faced criticism for endorsing QAnon, invoking antisemitic tropes and advancing false allegations of voter fraud. Boebert, who has said she is “proud” of voting to overturn the presidential election results, was standing beside Greene last March as she heckled President Joe Biden during a sensitive moment in his State of the Union address.
The political newcomers are among the most high-profile leaders in an emerging coalition of outspoken Republican insurgents who, inspired by former President Donald Trump, adhere to a style of nativist populism that is often more performative than policy-driven. Last week, for instance, Boebert announced the introduction of a bill that would classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction.
Frisch is banking on a suspicion that enough voters have grown tired of Boebert’s antics, even if they had previously welcomed the congresswoman as a refreshingly disruptive counterweight to the Republican status quo just a couple of years ago.
The entrepreneur and former longtime Aspen city councilman maintains that Boebert’s constituents have become increasingly “horrified” by her actions. “Before, they thought she was just kind of a wildcard,” Frisch told JI. “Now, they see her as an embarrassment and a menace to society and a danger.”
His hopes for a general election matchup, he recognizes, are dependent on a couple of outcomes. First, he needs to move past the June 28 primary, where he is facing off against two Democratic opponents: Sol Sandoval, a community organizer viewed as a frontrunner on the activist left, and Alex Walker, a self-described moderate who gained national attention for a questionably scatalogical campaign ad that one news outlet characterized as among the more “eye-catching” videos “in recent memory.”
There is no publicly available polling on the race, but Frisch, who identifies as a “pragmatic” moderate, insists he is well-positioned, citing his nearly decade-long run on Aspen’s city council — where he says affordable housing was among his top priorities — as evidence that he is best qualified to replace Boebert.
“We’re making the case that I’m the only one that can defeat her in the general election, and I believe that strongly,” he said. “It goes back to having the experience, a real background in the policies to be able to woo some of these non-Democrats to join our group to get rid of Boebert.”
Frisch, who says on his campaign site that he “runs a residential design and build firm,” has invested heavily in the race, having loaned himself more than $2.2 million, according to the latest filings from the Federal Election Commission. He has otherwise pulled in $330,000, lagging behind Sandoval, who has raised more than $900,000 from individual donors. Walker, at $250,000, has struggled to keep pace with both candidates.
Frisch, who is Jewish, suggested that Boebert’s conduct — particularly her flirtation with QAnon, a movement “with marked undertones of antisemitism and xenophobia,” according to the Anti-Defamation League — has been personally troubling, even more so amid a recent uptick in racially motivated hate crimes across the country. In Colorado, antisemitic incidents grew by 61% between 2017 to 2021, according to a recent audit conducted by the ADL.
“I think QAnon is an antisemitic and racist organization, and I think she is one of the biggest champions of that,” Frisch said of Boebert. “You don’t have to connect the dots very far to say that I think she has done a lot of antisemitic things, she’s hanging around with a lot of antisemitic organizations, seeks their active support and is fueling a lot of replacement theory conversation.”
Boebert’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from JI.
Even as Boebert’s statements have elicited backlash on social media and elsewhere, the increased attention, however negative, has also fueled a steady flow of campaign contributions that have contributed to her status as a prolific fundraiser.
In the Republican primary, Boebert, who has raised approximately $5 million, is expected to prevail over her sole challenger, state Sen. Don Coram, despite resistance from a feisty political advocacy group, American Muckrakers PAC, that is credited with helping to bring down freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District.
The newly launched organization is best known for releasing an explicit video of Cawthorn as part of an effort to damage his reputation in a competitive Republican primary battle last month. But such tactics appear to have backfired last week in Colorado, when American Muckrakers published a news release on its “Fire Boebert” website purporting to reveal that the staunchly pro-life congresswoman once “had two abortions” and worked as an “unlicensed paid escort” — claims she attacked as “blatantly false” in a statement to Fox News Digital.
Boebert’s lawyer, Jonathan Anderson, also denied the charges as “false and defamatory” in a letter threatening legal action and distributed to conservative media outlets last Wednesday.
The allegations, some details of which have been debunked, were widely slammed as bogus, largely because American Muckrakers had failed to procure sufficient documentary evidence beyond screenshots of an exchange with a single anonymous source whose assertions, along with some photos, have yet to be verified.
David Wheeler, a co-founder of American Muckrakers PAC, said in an interview with JI last Wednesday that he was taking “the lawyer letter very seriously,” promising to amend “anything that we determine is not correct.” Still, he stood by the claims and said he was in the process of conferring with his source about the possibility of going public in a press conference this week. “[The source is] pretty pissed off now that everybody’s calling her a liar, and she’s very disappointed and concerned about our reputation,” he said. “We may just out the whole thing. She might be ready.”
Wheeler said he was also working to substantiate at least two other tips that he described as “worse” than the accusations released last week. “We’ll make news here or not, but anything else that we release we’re going to send to her lawyer first to vet it, and if they can’t come back to us with verifiable evidence, ‘it’s not true,’ then we’re going to publish,” he suggested. “We’ve got a lot.”
Boebert’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment from JI.
American Muckrakers also recently brought allegations that Boebert had misused campaign funds during her 2020 congressional bid to Colorado’s attorney general’s office. The matter is now under investigation by state officials.
Voters, Wheeler insisted, “really need to take a hard look at Lauren Boebert.”
But even if the group produces more convincingly verifiable kompromat in the days leading up to next week’s GOP matchup, it remains uncertain as to whether Boebert will suffer at the ballot box. While thousands of Democrats have reportedly switched their party registration to unaffiliated and can now theoretically vote for her opponent in the open primary, the congresswoman has not otherwise seen any simultaneous opposition from Republican state and national leaders of the sort that contributed to Cawthorn’s defeat against a more formidable challenger.
Tyler Sandberg, a Republican consultant in Colorado, predicted that efforts to deny Boebert the nomination would ultimately prove ineffective. “I think a lot of folks on the Western Slope and in Colorado kind of like her non-PC brand,” he told JI. “There are many times that she says things that make Republicans cringe, but she is also tapping into grassroots energy.”
Boebert had more than $2 million on hand as of June 8, according to the FEC. Coram, by contrast, has pulled in about $225,000, with only about half of that in the bank.
The congresswoman has “run a significant campaign” and “works the district hard,” according to Sandberg, who surmised that she will have no trouble securing a second term, especially since the newly drawn district lines are now even more favorable for Republican candidates.
Seth Masket, a political scientist at the University of Denver, offered a somewhat more cautious appraisal in a recent email to JI. “If Boebert is going to face any real difficulty it’s in the primary,” he said. “The district has a Republican lean to it, and she’ll likely have a national Republican trend at her back in the fall.”
While Frisch speculates that Boebert will make it to the general election, he remains confident that he can pull off an upset with backing from what he describes as a coalition of voters who supported her last cycle but have since become disenchanted with the inflammatory behavior that has defined her tenure. “I think the math makes sense,” he said, while acknowledging that “a lot of people are skeptical of it.”
Dick Wadhams, a GOP consultant in Colorado and the former chair of the state Republican Party, is among those who have doubts. “The general perception,” he told JI in a recent email, “is the Republican primary is the only thing that matters.”
Still, Frisch suspects that Boebert is less popular than many experts believe, not least because she failed to win her home county in the 2020 general election and claimed victory with just over 51% of the vote in a district with a plurality of voters who identify as unaffiliated.
As he campaigns throughout a vast swath of rural Colorado that includes such cities as Grand Junction, Durango, Pueblo and his hometown of Aspen, Frisch said he has spoken with a number of constituents from across the political spectrum who voted for Boebert last cycle when she emerged from relative obscurity and shocked the political establishment by unseating five-term Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO).
“I had Democratic friends who voted for her and a lot of unaffiliated friends who voted for her,” Frisch, who was himself unaffiliated until last December, recalled. “It was part of that whole anti-establishment, let’s-try-something-new, throw-the-bums-out” approach to politics. But voter sentiment has been shifting, he claimed, even within the GOP. “I’m having conversations with a lot of Republicans who are frustrated,” Frisch told JI, “or former Republicans who have gone over to unaffiliated.”
Mendel Mintz, a rabbi who leads the Chabad Jewish Community Center in Aspen, said he has been encouraged to hear from voters in rural areas outside of deep-blue Aspen who have positively reviewed Frisch’s campaign. Such feedback is particularly meaningful, he suggested, in a district whose estimated Jewish population is only around 2,000, according to a 2014 survey conducted by the Berman Jewish DataBank.
“That makes me proud as a Jew,” Mintz told JI, “and is beautiful to see.” The rabbi said he first came to admire Frisch’s political acumen when he successfully ran for a city council seat more than 10 years ago. “He put himself out there and listened,” Mintz explained. “I remember saying, ‘This guy’s got humility and a desire to put things through.’”
Boebert, on the other hand, “is out there,” Mintz said judiciously, noting that he has never spoken with the congresswoman, who lives an hour’s drive from Aspen in the town of Silt. “There are things to like and not to like.”
Frisch grew up in Minneapolis, where his family attended a Conservative synagogue, and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado Boulder. After college, he “waited tables” in Manhattan before he “fell into finance and banking.” In 2003, Frisch settled in the prosperous resort town of Aspen, where he now lives with his wife, Katy, who serves as president of the local school board, and their two high school-age children.
The first-time congressional hopeful has long been involved in civic and Jewish community life in Aspen. “My view is, the tradition and the teaching of humility are two foundations of why I think religion and Judaism are good, and it’s grounded,” said Frisch, who has served on the board of the Aspen Jewish Congregation, a local Reform synagogue. Frisch, whose two terms on the city council ended in 2019, previously ran for mayor of Aspen before he announced his House bid last February.
“If there was a get-stuff-done party, I’d be in that party,” said Frisch, who hopes to join the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus if he is elected, where he can look forward to working alongside a friend and former high school classmate, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), from his home state of Minnesota.
Frisch is running on a platform that includes protecting reproductive rights, funding education, fighting inflation, conserving environmental resources and promoting gun control, among other things.
“For those who really want to make sure that they have full access to their ability to go hunting, full access to their ability to do recreational target practice and going to the gun ranges, and full access to being able to wear their handgun on their on their waist for safety or pride or whatever it is, I fully support that,” he clarified. “Where the conversation goes haywire, in my mind, is when people have this unrealistic expectation of, this gun equals their entire identity. I think that’s where we get into some issues.”
Frisch said he will take a similarly measured approach to foreign policy matters. He expressed some doubts, for instance, over the Biden administration’s renewed efforts to negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran, cautioning that the Islamic republic has “continually” demonstrated its disinterest in living up to the deal. “If I think that there is room to push the needle and that we should continue to talk even though I’m seeing skepticism,” Frisch said, “I’m happy to do that.”
“But one of the reasons you might want to just stop negotiating,” he added, “is because there might be a different group of people or a different policy that you want to focus on that is going to bring results for your constituents.”
His main concern when assessing such initiatives as the Iran deal, which has increasingly drawn scrutiny from lawmakers in both parties, is whether they can attract “some type of bipartisan support,” Frisch said. “I don’t want to get into performative legislation, which is I just want to perform and make my constituents feel good, even though none of it’s going to get done,” he explained, taking a veiled jab at Boebert. “That’s kind of a false sense of what leadership, in my mind, is supposed to be about.”
Instead, Frisch said he is more interested in prioritizing efforts to expand on the Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic relations between Israel and a number of Arab countries that have recently grown closer thanks in part to their shared opposition to Iran. He suggested that such diplomacy could ultimately help contribute to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even as he remains unconvinced that a future deal is in any way imminent, owing to the heated geopolitical dynamics in the region.
Frisch described himself as a staunch supporter of Israel and said he would back continued U.S. security assistance to the Jewish state, among other legislation such as supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. Frisch first visited Israel years ago, when he attended his sister’s bat mitzvah on Masada, and indicated that he is eager to return as an elected official. He said he envisions a number of opportunities at the state level to encourage bilateral cooperation between Colorado and Israel, including with water conservation and natural resource management.
Such partnerships, Frisch suggested, would also help to neutralize the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. “The BDS movement is something I’m concerned about,” he said. “Some of it is ignorance, some of it is antisemitic, but I think some of it is more, I would say, anti-Israel. If you do a Venn diagram and you get into anti-Israel and antisemitic, there’s a lot of overlap, for sure, but there are some parts where it’s not.”
Like every country, Israel should expect “to be poked and prodded on some of their policies,” Frisch said. “No country is perfect. But I do think antisemitism allows it to make it an easier blast at Israel for some of their policies.”
Still, he argued that Israel’s most outspoken critics seem to have ignored the many challenges of persisting as a Jewish state in hostile territory. “It’s really important for us to realize the neighborhood they live in.”
Boebert, for her part, has said she is “absolutely pro-Israel,” even as she has aligned herself with some movements that Frisch believes are antithetical to Jewish interests. “I think there are a lot of direct hardline connections to QAnon being an antisemitic, racist organization,” he reiterated.
“At the end of the day,” Frisch told JI, summarizing his candidacy, “I’m a moderate, pragmatic Jew” who is ultimately running to oppose “a QAnoner in the general election.”
“It’s a story,” he said, “that might resonate with a lot of people who have concerns.”